Last Year At Home
I can’t believe school only started two weeks ago! I feel like it’s all I think, breath and do – and that it is Life. How could it only be two weeks old?!
Of course, by school, I not only mean my youngest’s last year at home – I also mean the Waldorf high school where I teach. I go in every day (3 minute drive, 10 minute walk) though sometimes, like today, it’s only to teach one class. Today is Life Skills. I have a group of between 20 and 40 mixed age high schoolers and we mainly focus on things like sex, drugs, relationships and similar fun stuff. Last week we had a visitor from Viterbo University in La Crosse WI who spoke about the ethics of leadership, an important issue in our school where the students are involved in every level of decision-making. As a follow-up, today I am going to play some team building and leadership games with them.
That’s one class – others are English (Hamlet and creative writing with the seniors); social studies (the Bill of Rights with a mixed age class); and three main lessons spread through the year – poetry (10th gr), comedy and tragedy (a literature class for the 9th grade) and zoology (10th grade).
And then there are Meetings: meetings about why someone skipped school or isn’t coping with things; meetings with other English faculty to discuss who’s teaching what when; meetings with parents to reassure them about the Life Skills curriculum; meetings with other faculty about our relationship to the larger Waldorf movement.
Oh – and homeschooling Gabriel! Fortunately, as a 13 year old, he is very self organized and independent. He and I meet for two hours every morning and work on various things. At the moment, although I wouldn’t exactly say that we follow a clear main lesson pattern, we are focusing on Renaissance history. We’ll finish that in 2 weeks and move on to focus on anatomy and physiology. We work on our “focus topic” (ie main lesson) for about an hour – then I give him work to do after I leave. We then do some grammar and spelling together. He then does his own thing with German (a combination of workbooks and Rosetta Stone plus checking in with is Dad who is also learning German); Latin; computer programming; and free reading (novels mainly). Gabriel and Paul work on algebra together and Paul also gives him piano lessons. That is the bulk of Gabriel’s schooling this year.(later this year we will also do geometry, physics, chemistry, geography and hope to get our history studies up to modern times).When I teach main lessons at school later this year, he will work with his dad as well as on independent projects.
So it’s a stretch and we’re all very busy (did I mention I also carry the Children’s lessons at our monthly Christian Community gatherings?!).
Oh yes – and a little thing called Christopherus! Yes – that too! Gabriel helps with that – we should have a stamp for the envelopes “packed with care by a homeschooled boy!” Actually, we’re now looking into farming out our book shipping part of our business to free us up more for writing and consulting. That will be a scary but exciting change. And then I should be more able to write up some of the things I am teaching Gabriel and at the high school into books to sell to you all!
Anyway, the point of all this is not to shock you all into thoughts of “how does she do it?” but rather into giving you all a picture to show that, with flexibility and cooperation, all things are possible. And, most importantly, that as children get older, they need to become more and more independent in their studies. No – it doesn’t look terribly much like what happens in a Waldorf school, but it arises out of Waldorf and it works for my family. It meets my sons’ developmental need to be involved in his own education and in decision making – as well as being part of a family which depends on his involvement in our business. And I think those are incredibly important Life Skills lessons!